Riverdogs: Riverdogs

Vivian Campbell’s post-Whitesnake flop.

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In 1989, at the age of 27, Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell was based in Los Angeles and at a crossroads in his career. He’d made his name in two of the leading rock acts of that decade, Dio and Whitesnake, but his split from Ronnie James Dio had been acrimonious, and after one tour with Whitesnake, David Coverdale fired him.

Sick of big name singers and their bullshit, Campbell decided to try something different. He hooked up with a bunch of young unknowns in a new LA group, Riverdogs.

This band had huge potential. Singer Rob Lamothe had a soulful voice reminiscent of Paul Rodgers. Their classy, blues-based hard rock stood set them apart from LA’s hair metal scene. They also had the backing of Sony. For all that, the one album that Campbell made with Riverdogs was a complete failure.

It featured some good songs, such as the powerful, atmospheric opener Whisper. And Campbell played brilliantly throughout, his stinging solo on Holy War a reminder that he was once nicknamed “the man who put the ‘fast’ into Belfast”. However, the album’s release in 1990 coincided with a power struggle at Sony, and as a result, Riverdogs got lost in the shuffle.

The album sank like a stone, and Campbell moved on. He and ex-Foreigner singer Lou Gramm formed the band Shadow King and made a brilliant album, but then came an offer that Campbell couldn’t refuse: joining Def Leppard. Nice work if you can get it./o:p

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”